ATLANTA — The New Orleans Saints had coach Sean Payton back on the sideline Sunday for the first time since Oct. 16 when they played the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
While Payton did not call the offensive plays, he monitored the game from the sideline on crutches — four weeks after tearing his meniscus and suffering a fractured left tibia in a game at Tampa Bay.
Payton had hoped to return to the sideline for the first game following their upcoming bye after being confined to the coaches’ booth in the press box for three games, but said he and doctors decided Sunday morning he could be back in his normal spot.
“I’ve been doing pretty good with the rehab, and we felt like we could be smart where I was (on the sideline),” Payton said. “I just had to stay behind the ball, and really, I just felt like this was an important game, and having a presence on the sideline was important.”
Quarterback Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes in a 26-23 overtime victory over the Falcons, the first of which was a 21-yard strike to tight end Jimmy Graham in the second quarter.
That toss gave Brees at least one scoring pass in 37 consecutive regular-season games, moving him past Brett Favre and into sole possession of second place on the NFL’s all-time list.
Johnny Unitas holds the all-time record with a touchdown pass in 47 games in a row.
Rookie running back Mark Ingram played against the Falcons after missing the past two games with a bruised right heel.
Ingram, who was hurt in the fourth quarter of a 62-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 23, played Sunday and had 11 rushing yards on eight carries and 3 yards on one reception.
The Saints inactives were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), cornerback Patrick Robinson (stomach), defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), running back Chris Ivory (hamstring), fullback Korey Hall, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, and tackle Ray Willis.
Starting safety William Moore (quadriceps) and starting left tackle Sam Baker (back) were the only inactives of note for the Falcons.
Saints tight end David Thomas left in the fourth quarter with an unspecified injury and did not return. … Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones aggravated a hamstring injury in the first half and did not play in the second half.
Beating the Birds
With the victory, Payton improved to 9-2 against the Falcons and has won five of the six matchups in the Georgia Dome to help the Saints close the gap in the all-time series, which the Falcons lead 45-39.
Payton’s only losses to the Falcons came in 2008 in Atlanta (34-20) and in 2010 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (27-24 in overtime).
The Saints are 5-1 under Payton in their final game going into the bye week. The only loss was a 31-14 setback to the Tennessee Titans in 2007. … With the win, the Saints are 9-11 in regular-season overtime games. They are also 1-0 in the postseason, beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in the 2009 NFC Championship. … The Saints lost the opening coin toss and are 0-for-10 this season, 0-for-11 if you count losing the toss to start Sunday’s overtime.